It’s been almost 80 years since Wheaton Christian Grammar School was birthed in the fall of 1942. Much has changed. A quick look at old school photos shows vastly different clothing and hairstyles. The first WCGS students attended school in a rented house where one teacher taught 15 children, grades 1 through 6. Orange crates served as desks. To most, the names of administrators, teachers, and students from those early years are unfamiliar. Yet when I reflect on this milestone, I am struck by what has not changed: God’s faithfulness. Though my personal experience with Wheaton Christian Grammar School began as a third grader, my journey to WCGS started long before I was born when my mom (Marti Knudsen) began her teaching career at this school. She was positively influenced by a former principal, Miss Ross, and many others and became very committed to Christian education and WCGS (as evidenced by a total of 28 years teaching here). After marrying my dad, starting a family, and moving a couple of times, God led my parents back to the Wheaton area with a strong desire to enroll us at WCGS. However, my parents were informed that there was space for both my older sister and my younger sister, but no opening for me. My parents pursued enrollment prayerfully, confident that God would provide, and He did.
I have many wonderful memories from my days as a student at WCGS. One fond memory is actually a very simple one. I loved hot lunch days when foods like Sloppy Joes were lovingly cooked and served by school parents. The homemade cupcakes were wonderfully decorated to make us feel special as we lined up, eager to choose one for dessert. It sounds like a rather insignificant thing to remember. But it was through the daily events, activities, and interactions that I saw God’s faithfulness and love for me lived out at WCGS. As a student, I was also stretched academically and given opportunities to participate in many extracurricular activities. I was challenged to see beyond myself and reach out to others. But more importantly, I was taught, inspired, nurtured, and mentored by men and women who were passionately pursuing Jesus, and who helped me to do the same. Whether through administrators, teachers, or parents, God’s faithfulness to me was lived out daily by the Grammar School community.
Upon graduating from Wheaton College, I returned to Wheaton Christian Grammar School to teach. My fourth grade classroom was in a newer part of the building on Harrison Street in Wheaton. Much had changed since I was a student, but one thing had not. It was then that I first experienced the support of teachers, administrators, and parents from a different perspective. As a new teacher, I was mentored, encouraged, stretched, and loved. I experienced God’s faithfulness through the beautiful partnership that comes from a shared commitment to knowing, loving and pursuing Jesus in shared ministry.
In 2005, after time at home raising our four children, I was excited that God called me back to Wheaton Christian Grammar School. My fifth grade classroom was a mobile unit in the parking lot until, in 2010, God provided our current facility in Winfield. Modern classrooms, new technologies, a geothermal energy system – unthinkable in 1942. We are privileged to enjoy so many advancements and changes in our school. Yet we can be grateful that God’s faithfulness has not changed.
Now in my 20th year teaching at WCGS, I see parents still loving on children through special lunches. Families reach out to support each other, bless students, and encourage the school. Administrators, faculty, and staff continue to collaborate, encourage, stretch, and support one another. I can testify that God is still faithfully at work in the classrooms and halls at Wheaton Christian Grammar School today just as He was when I was a child. I see students not only growing academically, but delving into the truths in the Bible, wrestling with difficult questions, discovering the gifts and talents God has given them, hiding God’s Word in their hearts, and learning to see the world through the lens of the Bible. At a time when the world seems dark, I see God stirring the hearts of boys and girls who are and will be lights in the world. So we celebrate God’s faithfulness in this place. And as we look forward, we do so with confidence and hope for the future... not hope based on our efforts but on Who our God is.
By: Marybeth (Knudsen) Sauter (Class of ’74, teacher 1982-1985, 2005-present)